Weekend, Travel, Leisure and the Perfect Tense

toy_car

mit dem Auto fahren

bicycle

mit dem Rad fahren

film_slate

ins Kino gehen

aeroplane

nach Sydney fliegen

The „recipe“ for forming the past participle is shown in the diagram below and also on this page:

This recipe works with regular verbs, of which machen (to make or do) is one.  With verb stems that end in d or t, one adds et at the end, not just t.  e.g. With the verb arbeiten (to work), the verb stem is arbeit. Add ge before and et at the end and you have the past participle for worked: gearbeitet.
•This recipe works with regular verbs, of which machen (to make or do) is one.
•With verb stems that end in d or t, one adds et at the end, not just t.
•e.g. With the verb arbeiten (to work), the verb stem is arbeit. Add ge- before and -et at the end and you have the past participle corresponding to worked: gearbeitet.

Here are some common leisure verbs that are reassuringly regular in their formation of the past participle:

  • machen – to make (see diagram)
  • spielen – to play
  • suchen – to look for or seek
  • lachen – to laugh
  • arbeiten – to work
  • tanzen – to dance
  • hören – to hear
  • kochen – to cook
  • leben – to live
  • wohnen – to live, inhabit
  • malen – to paint

Use the pattern described in the diagram above to figure out the past participle of these everyday verbs and type them in the quiz box below:

Many of the most common verbs, however, are irregular in their past participle. In other words, they do not follow the recipe.

As a rule of thumb, many of the verbs that are irregular in English in the past participle (that is, that don’t simply add -ed) are also irregular in German.

One reason is that the two languages were toddlers together in the deep and distant past (well over 1000 years ago) and then drifted apart. Yet, like twins who have been raised apart, they sometimes bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. I find this oddly reassuring, as though I were learning something that is already familiar.

2

See if you can match each infinitive verb below with its irregular past participle. The only really tricky one is sein – to be. Leave it till last.

Verbs that convey the idea of movement or state/existence in German form the perfect tense with sein (to be) as the helping or auxiliary verb. This means that you need to revisit the verb sein (to be) and ensure that it is engraved in your memory. Here is its conjugation:

sein – to be – present tense conjugation
1st person   ich bin – I am  wir sind – we are 
2nd person   du bist – you are  ihr seid – you are (plural) 
3rd person  er/sie ist – he/she is   sie sind – they are

This is the simplest pattern for a perfect tense sentence:

Ich bin ins Kino gegangen. – I went to the cinema.

[pronoun] + [auxiliary verb, conjugated] + [extra information] + [past participle]

More examples:

Ich bin zum Strand gegangen. – I went to the beach.

Ich bin mit dem Rad zur Schule gefahren. – I rode my bike to school.

Er ist übers Wochenende weggefahren. – He went away over the weekend.

Most verbs form the perfect tense with the auxiliary haben – to have. Here is the conjugation of haben:

haben – to have – present tense conjugation
1st person   ich habe – I habe  wir haben – we have 
2nd person   du hast – you have  ihr habt – you are (plural)
3rd person  er/sie hat – he/she has  sie haben – they have

Here are some examples of sentences in which the perfect tense is formed with haben. Here is the simplest pattern again, this time withhaben.

Ich habe ein Buch gelesen. – I read a book.

[pronoun] + [auxiliary verb, conjugated] + [extra information] + [past participle]

More examples:

Ich habe am Computer gespielt. – I played on the computer.

Wir haben unsere Freunde besucht. We visited our friends.

Sie haben ein Eis gegessen. – They ate an ice cream.

3 

Cycle through the Quizlet below. The examples will help you to get used to this pattern.

Several sentences in this Quizlet are formed with a time clause at the beginning of the sentence. After the time variable (e.g. am Wochendende – at the weekend) the conjugated auxiliary verb comes second, followed by the pronoun. The past participle is still at the end.

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